Nate and I joined a camping trip with WOW Liberia last weekend and drove upcountry to Bong County, where the community around the Kpatewee waterfalls hosted us at their campsite and celebrated Liberian Independence day with us. Here's a photo of me with one of the community leaders, enjoying ourselves.
The campsite was enclosed in a high bamboo fence, with bamboo benches and small, similarly constructed palaver huts, one of which protected the dj from the nightime drizzle. He played Sierra Leonean hits like "Don't Mess with my Tutu" and "You Done Make Me Fall in Love" off an iMac while our fellow campers -- a mix of Americans, English, Germans, Lebanese and Liberians -- danced around a bamboo campfire and drank Club Beer. The late-night contingent traded songs in their home languages and even included the Bengali UNMIL batallion who'd been brought in to guard the perimeter. I'm not sure it we needed the level of protection that UNMIL provides, but the solidiers were clearly happy to be there, volunteering to snap pictures and trying to remember all of our names.
Food that night was served by women from the village, who had brought large pots of jollof rice, fried chicken, cabbage salad and goat soup from Gbanga, the capital of Bong County where President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf spent her Liberian Indepdence Day weekend. On our way to camp, we stopped at the Coo Coo Nest reststop for $2 Nescafe and shared the space with former President Bryant, the Liberia's leader during the transitional period, the Cheif Justice, and other heads of various ministries and important offices. As soon as I found out who they were, I gave up trying to order all the mezze that were on their table.
I really like community tourism and I thought WOW Liberia did a great job on their first organized tour to the falls. I like how they work with the local community and that community members were there, eager to see how we were enjoying our stay and appreciating their natural resources. I heard a lot of pride in their voices as they welcomed us, and I liked that.